As parents and caregivers we want to do the best for our children, right? Often thoughts might go through our heads wondering whether we’ve been doing all the right things with our children before they start school. We are lucky to have some early childhood teachers in our volunteer management committee and they assure us that preparing your child for school is very simple and have shared some tips with us. (PS we note that Kindergym ticks a lot of these boxes!)
Experiences outside the home
Make sure your child goes out into the world and has lots of experiences in different places. It doesn’t have to cost much with lots of free options such as playgrounds, your local library (which is likely to run some wonderful preschool programs), museums and nature trails.
If your family budget allows it then go to zoos, wildlife parks and other attractions. Instead of toys as birthday and Christmas presents you could ask friends and family to gift vouchers to local attractions. These activities create some wonderful memories for children… can you remember the first time you went to a zoo?
There are plenty of regular preschool activities on offer for children including Kindergym, dancing, basic level sports and craft.
Holidays are also a wonderful way to show your child that there is a whole world out there. Whether it be a simple trip less than an hour away, to interstate or even overseas the experience is fantastic for your child’s development.
Despite whatever you have read on the internet or what your Aunty Mavis has said, there I absolutely NO need for your child to know how to read and write before they start school. In fact, our teachers do an absolutely fabulous job of teaching them to do this. But, we do think it is essential that kids have books read to them regularly before starting school. It teaches them a love of books but also things like how to hold a book properly, how turning the pages work and basic things like the title and author’s name. Knowing these little things will enable your child to go straight into learning how to read when they do start school.
Reading from birth is a wonderful idea, however if you have not already started reading with your child then it is never too late. Reading together can become a fun “downtime” afternoon activity or you might like to include it as part of your bedtime routine.
Fine motor skills are important for when children are learning to write. There are so many ways you can do this. For example, singing songs like ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ together with the hand movements, playing games together that involve hand movements, safe ‘sewing’ activities, barrel of monkeys game and building toys just to name a few. Some children absolutely love drawing from the time they are young too so encourage them if they are keen on it. If they aren’t interested in drawing or writing before they start school don’t be too concerned – there are a few children in our volunteer management committee families who didn’t enjoy drawing or writing at preschool but after they started school they completely changed!
Gross motor skills are important too – encouraging them to play at the playground, in a park, the backyard and even around the home (depending on how comfortable you are with them jumping on your furniture!) will prepare them for school.
Introducing your child to regular social interactions with other kids is essential because they will be learning with 20+ other children when they start school. They also learn to follow instructions from people other than their parents, learn how to take turns, share and generally what behaviour is appropriate in a group situation. Kindergym is a great example, but introducing your child to playgroups, childcare and preschool will also help them. Regular playdates also help children learn how to establish friendships.
Let them play
Your pre-schooler has years of school ahead of them and so one of the most important tips we can give is to let them play! If they take a particular interest in something then you could delve further into it. For example, if your chid is into dinosaurs you could play with a set of dinosaur toys (don’t forget toy libraries if you don’t have toys at home) and your child might learn about the different types of dinosaurs. If your child is into the solar system they might enjoy making or drawing the planets during craft time. Of course it doesn’t have to be dinosaurs or the solar system… whatever they are interested in! Follow their lead and encourage them to learn through play.
We are very lucky these April school holidays – the weather is perfect for getting out and about! Our volunteer committee have shared some of their plans to make the most of the nicer weather before winter kicks in.
Mt Lofty Botanic Garden
Autumn is such a lovely time to visit Mount Lofty Botanic Garden. The tree colours are just amazing – our social media feeds are full of fantastic pictures taken by visitors at this time of year. A perfect spot for a picnic. Of course, there is usually an opportunity for jumping in a pile of leaves too!
Pop Up Wild Goblin Garden
We think our pre-schoolers will love the City of Adelaide have set up a Pop Up Wild Goblin Garden at 88 O’Connell. It’s on until 18 April 2019 so we need to get there quickly! They have set up a sustainable village with natural and upcycled materials by Climbing Tree Nature Play. There are plenty of cafes to visit close by too. You’ll find it at 88 O’Connell Street North Adelaide.
If your pre-schooler has not visited the SA Museum yet then now is the time to do it! There is something for everyone there and it is free to enter (although you may make a donation if you wish). A show of hands around the committee tells us that the giant squid is the overwhelming favourite thing to see. Yes, the Museum is indoors, however it is a lovely spot to have a picnic lunch outside before or after (or even at ‘half-time’) during your visit when the weather is lovely. They usually have school holiday activities too – some may or may not be suitable for pre-schoolers. For more information visit their website.
Adelaide Zoo and Monarto Zoo
A visit to Adelaide Zoo is always enjoyed by everyone and there is also a fantastic playground, picnic spaces and cafes. Monarto Zoo is a longer drive but so worth it! Children under four are free. Memberships are worthwhile considering for the grown ups and older children and make an excellent present idea! For more information visit their website.
Cleland Wildlife Park
Children will love getting up close to the animals at Cleland Wildlife Park. As the animals are adapted to the park environment children are able to pat and feed the animals. You can also add animal experiences to your visit – we think our little ones would love the butterfly experience. It is especially nice to visit Cleland when the weather is warmer – we find that it is the coolest part of Adelaide! For more information visit their website.
The Semaphore Carousel is over 90 years old and is always a favourite when heading to the beach. Follow up your visit with fish and chips on the beach or perhaps an ice cream. You can also walk across the jetty or have a play on the beach.
SASMEE Train Park
The South Australian Society of Model and Experimental Engineers (SASMEE) Park at Millswood has been a hit with our children. Children can get up close to and ride on the miniature trains.
A great spot to have a picnic (get there early to get a great spot!). The next running day is 20 April 2019. For more information visit
Carrick Hill is always a great spot to visit and these school holidays they have a “Bee Babies” program for children aged 3-12 years. It sounds like a fun adventure!
Markets are a great learning experience for your child. There are many to choose from. Our favourites are the Central Market, Plant 4 Bowden and on Sundays the Wayville showgrounds offer the Farmers Market and Gilles at the Ground.
A Culinary Drive to the Hills
It’s strawberry season (but only just!) so you could head along to Beerenberg Farm at Hahndorf to pick some delicious fruit. It’s a good idea to check their website or Facebook page daily to make sure they are picking on that day. Another favourite of ours is Melba's Chocolates and Woodside Cheese Wrights which are conveniently next door to each other. You may be able to find other fruit picking and other culinary delights in the hills.
Visit a Playground Outside Your Local Area
For a special treat make a special trip to a playground outside of our local area. Some of our favourites:
**All opinions are of the volunteer management committee. This post is NOT sponsored.**
We all have those days when we’re stuck at home….perhaps the car is being serviced or you are waiting for a tradesperson/delivery or perhaps your child is toilet training and you are reluctant to go too far from the house. Sometimes we all need a “home day”.
For a little inspiration our committee members have shared some of their favourite low cost play activities to do at home.
Go for a stroll around your neighbourhood with your child. If they are walking then leave the pram at home (you don’t have to go far) and let your child lead the way. Stop whenever something catches their eye, such as:
If the weather is nice enough set up a child height table outside and place different sized containers from around the home on top. Fill some of the containers with water and let your child experiment with pouring water from one container to another.
Backyard obstacle course
If the weather is clear but not quite warm enough for some water play then you could make an obstacle course in your backyard. Look around your house for ideas for activities – remember to get your creative cap on. This article has some great ideas on how to create one https://www.familiesmagazine.com.au/kids-obstacle-course/
If there is a nice blue sky with fluffy clouds take a picnic rug into the backyard or to your local park and lie down with your child. Look for shapes and patterns that the clouds make. You could even tell stories to each other based on what shapes you see. Enjoy some relaxing time in the fresh air together. This can even work on your balcony if you have one!
We’re yet to meet a little one who doesn’t like bubbles. It isn’t hard to get your hands on bubble sticks at your local supermarket so this is an easy and relatively inexpensive activity to do with your child. If you’re lucky enough to have found a bubble kit with lots of different shaped wands then you can experiment making different shaped bubbles. Most discount and cheap stores sell battery operated bubble machines as well which can also be lots of fun and give parents and caregivers a little rest!
Indoor tents and cubby houses
If it is a rainy day you might be restricted to being inside the house so a fun idea is to make tents and cubby houses with furniture and sheets or blankets. Let your child use their imagination and go with it. You could also have a picnic lunch or morning/afternoon tea in the tent/cubby.
Gather some soft toys together and host a tea party! If you have a play tea set you can use this, otherwise get creative with what you have around the house. An invisible tea set can also be fun.
Blow up one, two, three or even more balloons to play with. You can play volleyball, hit them back and forth to each other, see how long you can keep the balloon off the floor… the ideas are endless. You can even blow up a balloon without tying it up and let it go to see what happens!
Sort it Out
Help your little one to sort out a group of items into categories. The way you sort them will depend on what items you have, but sorting by colour is usually a good one for toddlers and preschoolers. Some ideas for things to sort include laudnry pegs, coloured balls from a mini ball pit, bottle caps, lids, hair ties, pieces of felt or other material, socks or toy cars. Depending on the age of your child and the type of item you might even be able to leave them for a couple of minutes to grab a cup of tea!
Good old-fashioned playdough is always popular. We like to use this recipe:
1 cup salt
2 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons oil
3 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 cups boiling water
Mix all dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl/jug mix water and food colouring. Add to dry ingredients and mix. Once cool enough to touch knead gently until smooth. Store in an airtight container. For some variety you could use different colours or add in edible glitter. Use cookie cutters and other objects around the home to create shapes.